Hey guys! Something that had been playing in my head for a while – it's a jungle in there! Hope you like it!
Disclaimer: I own nothing, sadly.
"Tony, is Senior in town for Christmas?"
The Very Special Agent snorted at the idea. "No, he's off to the Bahamas to celebrate with Wife Number Four. Or was it five, I lost count…" he tapped a finger on his chin while he thought about it and then shrugged before looking back at McGee. "Anyway, doesn't matter, I got other plans."
McGee smiled. "Date?"
Tony simply shook his head and started packing up his things to go home. Christmas was in two days and they'd gotten a whole week off because they'd been on call for the previous three years.
Apparently, Abby had heard him as she came out of the elevator in the bullpen because within seconds, Tony found himself with an arm full of raven haired girl. She clenched her arms around his waist and he made a desperate sound as his lungs demanded air.
She let go and looked at him as if he was a lost little orphan. "Tony", she sighed, "don't tell me you're gonna be all alone tomorrow, like every year."
Tony snorted and laughed just a little too loud. "Me, alone? Please, I'm a DiNozzo." When he saw the forensic scientist's eyes narrow, he rolled his eyes. "Abs. Not gonna be alone, promise." He glanced at his watch and quickly grabbed his jacket. "Now I really gotta go. Have fun, guys!" he called over his shoulder as he hastily pressed the elevator button. The doors opened and he rushed in, almost colliding with Gibbs' firm chest as he was about to get off the elevator.
He tried not to gulp at the obvious irritation emanating from the older man and walked around him into the narrow space. Gibbs had been growling at them for days and Tony was relieved that he was finally getting some space to breathe now they had some time off. He didn't dare ask what the team leader's plans for the holidays were, probably something involving a boat and enough Bourbon to drown any other man's liver. He didn't realize he was still staring at the older man when Gibbs raised an eyebrow. Tony quickly shook his head to focus and stop himself from inviting Gibbs to spend Christmas with him. But he knew he couldn't – not if he ever wanted to see another sunrise. The Senior Field Agent pressed the button that closed the doors and was just able to pick up Gibbs' faintly surprised expression at his sudden departure.
They were friends. 'Were' being the keyword, as Gibbs had been avoiding him for the past months. At first Tony had assumed it was because of a difficult case they'd struggled with, but when Gibbs stopped inviting him for steaks and got even quieter than usual when Tony stopped by and visited him in the basement, the younger man started to worry. And then he worried even more. He'd tried to broach the subject but Gibbs had acted like nothing was going on and to be honest, it insulted Tony a little. He had thought they'd been closer but if Gibbs wanted to play the ignorance-card, the older man obviously hadn't cared a whole lot about him. And now, months later, they didn't see each other out of work anymore. Everything was strictly business and it hurt Tony deeper than he wanted to admit, something he wasn't planning to analyze without a bottle of something strong in his reach.
He cracked his neck as he walked out of the elevator and into the parking lot. Enough with the pondering, now he was gonna celebrate. A fond smile blossomed on his handsome features when he thought about his plans for the evening.
As he drove to his destination, he sang along at the top of his lungs with the songs on the radio and tried to empty his head. He had a long drive before him and he didn't want to spend it thinking about work.
It was already noon when Tony finally arrived. He took a few minutes to stretch his tired legs and groaned loudly when a couple of vertebrae in his spine clicked back into place. He grabbed his travel bag out of the trunk and walked up to the door. He knew he didn't have to ring the bell, he could just as easily go in via the store.
He smiled broadly when he saw the excitement in the eyes of the man that was approaching him with his arms wide open.
"Hey, Jack." He warmly returned the older man's hug and sighed in relief. He'd finally arrived.
"Come on, let's go into the house and you can complain to me about your boss while I make you some hot chocolate." Jack winked as he pulled Tony along with him. They sat at the kitchen table and Jack pushed a plate with delicious looking sandwiches in the younger man's direction. As if on demand, Tony's stomach grumbled loudly and he smiled happily as he attacked the food.
"So… has everything returned to normal in DC?"
Tony knew better than to try and dodge the question but he tried to nonetheless.
"Oh yeah, it's fine." The smile he forced after that, was his second mistake. The curious blue eyes focused on him carried a worry that strangely warmed Tony's heart. He broke the eye contact and looked down into his steaming cup. "I'm not gonna bother you with whatever problems I have, Jack."
"Is your Dad coming to visit?"
The question didn't surprise Tony and he laughed softly, thinking back to his team mates giving him pitiful looks whenever he had his back turned or they thought he wasn't paying attention. Apparently he didn't need to answer the older man's question, as he felt a warm hand give his a soft squeeze.
"Sounds like you got no one else to bother at the moment."
Tony jerked his head up and looked shocked. Then he smiled sadly as he realized that the older man was right, and stared at his cup a little while longer, knowing Jack would wait for him to talk. Once again, he felt something tug at his heart and he forced it down, thinking about what Gibbs would say if he knew he visited his father.
"It's just hard." He finally whispered, unwilling to look up and meet the older man's eyes. There was something strangely comforting about talking to a cup of hot chocolate and Tony decided not to question it any further.
"Still no change in Leroy?"
Tony shook his head curtly. "I don't know what I did wrong.", he sighed as he lifted his cup and sipped carefully, letting the warm beverage warm his hands while hoping that it'd warm his heart too.
"Ah kid. My son can be a stubborn mule, but I take it you don't need me to tell you that." Jack smiled at Tony's snort. He covered the Italian's hand with his and squeezed gently, trying to convey the sense of belonging that the younger man so desperately needed.
Both men looked up when suddenly they heard knocking at the door. Jack frowned and he made a move to open the door but stopped when Tony laid a hand on his arm and pulled him back slightly.
"Are you expecting company tonight?"
"No, son, only you."
Tony shrugged and moved towards the window, pulling back the curtains a little to see who was at the door. Unfortunately the angle didn't provide him with a good view and he couldn't see who was standing on the other side of the door. Then he heard someone screwing with the lock and his heart rate picked up. He touched his hip and realized he didn't have his gun with him so he laid his hand on the doorknob, inwardly counted to three and then jerked it open in one fluid motion, hoping that he looked as threatening as he felt.
He didn't know who carried the most ridiculous expression, him or the visitor.
"What are you doing here?" Tony exclaimed.
"Same thing I was gonna ask you, DiNozzo", Gibbs growled as he put away his lock picking set, crossed the threshold and walked into the cozy living room without taking his steel blue eyes off of Tony.
"Leroy, I didn't know you were coming over?" Jack asked but he noticed that neither Agent was paying any attention to him. His son was giving his Second in Command his most evil glare and Tony was doing his best to suppress his urge to flee the scene.
"DiNozzo?" Gibbs barked again as he got up into Tony's personal space.
"Leroy, where are your manners?" Jack protested. "if you're here to pick a fight, go somewhere else. Anthony was helping me in the store."
Gibbs held Tony's gaze for a few more seconds before he looked away and focused on his shocked father. Seeing the annoyance clearly written on the older man's face, his shoulders slumped a bit.
"Give us a moment." He ordered Tony.
"Look, I'll just go, it's fine." Tony made a move to grab his travel bag but Jack's firm glare stopped him dead in his tracks.
"Don't you dare, Tony. Go put your stuff in the guest bedroom." When Tony looked at Gibbs and found him still trying to get rid of him, he shrugged. "Sorry Boss, Jack scares me more at this point." That earned him a small smile from the oldest Gibbs.
Both Gibbs men's gazes followed Tony as he jogged up the stairs and disappeared from their view. Then Jethro stared back at Jack and raised an eyebrow, wordlessly demanding an explanation of the situation he'd walked in on.
Jack sighed and shrugged, as if he didn't think he needed to explain the younger Agent's presence.
"He helps around the store, it's nice." Jack hesitated briefly and then seemed to force the next words over his lips. "It gets lonely in here sometimes."
"But why the hell Tony?" Gibbs exclaimed as he dragged his fingertips through his silver strands, barely suppressing the anger and frustration that clawed at him, trying to break out. He chose to ignore his father's barely-hidden complaint for the moment.
A deep frown creased Jack's forehead and he gazed at his son for a moment before answering.
"Why not Tony? A few months ago I tried to call you at home because I hadn't heard from you in a while and I could use an extra pair of hands in here. I couldn't reach you, even when I tried your cell, so I worried." Jack tipped up his chin as if he silently dared Gibbs to make fun of him for worrying about his fearless bastard of a son.
When the younger Gibbs didn't say anything, his father continued. "I tried NCIS 'cause I figured they'd know more. I got Tony on the line and he told me you were in Afghanistan of all places, on some mission to rescue a female soldier who'd gone missing."
Gibbs immediately remembered the case, how could he not? Gabriella Flores, the soldier who'd managed to get away when a school exploded but was then captured by extremists.
Jack seemed to notice the understanding dawn on his son's face. "Tony understood why I was worried, and he didn't try to sugarcoat it. He listened. And the first few hours he got off work, he drove over here to help me with the store. Been doing it ever since whenever he gets a day off."
A warm feeling blossomed in Gibbs's chest and he stomped it down. His pained expression must've been visible because he felt a warm hand on his arm and opened his eyes to find his dad giving him a small smile.
"I can't have him here."
Jack's smile disappeared from his face. "Why the hell not?"
Gibbs looked away and bit his bottom lip, appearing deep in thought. His eyebrows knit together and his muscles tense.
"I see him every day. Can't I get some time off too?"
"I thought you two were friends? Jesus, Leroy. I didn't raise you to be this cold! Always keeping your personal life and your job so far apart. Well it's a damn shame because Tony was here first and I'm not sending him away. The boy worries too much, I won't take the risk of him driving before at least getting a good night's sleep."
Gibbs couldn't have kept the deep sigh that escaped his chest if he'd tried. Jack had expected his son to protest against his rather harsh words, but instead the man looked… lost.
"I'm glad you came, Leroy." Jack gave his son a little push against the small of his back, steering him towards the stairs. "Your bed's made up. We'll talk tomorrow." The older man didn't leave any room for argument and Gibbs suddenly found himself too tired to even try. It felt as if the last months all came crashing down on him at once. He took the stairs two at a time and barely found the energy to undress to his boxers before falling down on the mattress.
However, he was unable to surrender to the sleep that tugged at his eyes and he stared at the ceiling, as if he'd find the answers to his questions written there.
Suddenly his head jerked in the direction of the door when it was pushed open slightly and Tony peeked his head into the room. They stared at each other for what felt like hours before Gibbs found his voice. Nevertheless, it sounded hoarse when it finally came out.
"You've been here a lot."
Tony didn't say anything, just nodded after a slight hesitation. Still, Jethro felt as if he had to explain.
"You know which steps creak." Then, after a moment of silence, "I didn't expect you."
Tony knew that his boss wasn't talking about a minute ago. The older man didn't appreciate surprises and he was probably the last person on earth Jethro had expected to find in his Dad's home.
"I know." He nearly bit his tongue to keep from apologizing and just stood there, unable to break their eye-contact. The older man had an expression in his eyes that Tony couldn't quite place. He finally tore his gaze away from Jethro and stared at the floor, afraid that if he kept looking, he'd be unable to stop himself from drinking in the sight of a nearly naked Gibbs.
"I didn't know this would bother you so much, I hadn't come here if I had known." The words were almost a whisper and from the corner of his eye, he was just able to see Gibbs nodding.
"Jack said you've been coming here whenever you get enough time off to make the drive over to Stillwater."
"I get lonely." Tony said the words without any hesitation and Gibbs felt a pang of regret before he squashed it down. He scooted over to one side of the mattress and tapped the vacant space beside him, motioning for Tony to sit beside him. It took a few moments before the younger man was finally able to give his legs the command to move. He sat down slowly, afraid that Gibbs would pull his walls up any moment and send him out on the street.
Then he thought about how he was sitting there. He was sitting on Gibbs' bed and yet he was still playing the submissive coworker-part. It made him angry in a matter of seconds. All the things he'd carefully hidden found their way up and he couldn't have stopped them from escaping if he'd tried.
"You know what? No. I'm not gonna pretend as if nothing's happened. We were friends, Gibbs. Jethro. Whatever. I used to come to you whenever I felt lonely or just wanted to talk to someone. You took that away from me!" He jabbed his index finger against Gibbs bare chest to emphasize his point.
"I thought you had a girlfriend."
"You treated me like yesterday's trash when you started ignoring me. So don't give me shit for it when I search friendship someplace else." Only then he realized what Gibbs had said. "Wait, what?"
Gibbs shrugged. "You started leaving on time, smiled more, didn't talk about conquests of the week, what was I supposed to think?"
Tony glared at the silver haired man. "I don't know, maybe you could have asked me? Oh yeah, I forgot, you ignored me for months!" Tears welled up in his eyes and he got even angrier at the show of weakness. He averted his gaze and refused to look into the blue eyes that always managed to throw him off-kilter.
They sat together in silence for several minutes and Tony was just beginning to think that Gibbs might not say anything else when the older man spoke.
"I'm sorry, Tony."
That was enough to jerk his head up and look at Gibbs as if he'd just grown a second head. The older man snorted and reached out to squeeze his shoulder reassuringly.
"I can say it, if I mean it."
The corner of Tony's mouth arched slightly but Gibbs' apology hadn't fully settled his inner turmoil. He hated to keep his distance but he couldn't get hurt when he was just opening up again. He had to protect himself, had been doing it all his life. He stared at his hands before forcing the words over his lips.
"I appreciate your apology, Gibbs, I do. But that still doesn't explain why we don't talk any more about anything non-work related. So what, if you thought I had a girlfriend? Wouldn't you want me to be happy?" Tony briefly looked up and found Gibbs looking torn. What was the older man struggling with?
Gibbs ran his fingers through his hair and scrubbed his hands over his face as if he'd regain clarity that way. He stayed silent and Tony couldn't resist prodding.
"Gibbs?" Did the older man really not want to see him happy?
Still, his boss didn't answer him. Jethro picked at his shorts in an uncharacteristic indecisive manner. Anger flared up in Tony's chest and he scooted farther away from Gibbs. "So I can't be happy if you're not happy?"
Gibbs glared at him with an intense fury that Tony hadn't expected and he drew his head back, afraid it'd get bit off if he didn't.
Finally the older man spoke, and his voice shook with barely contained anger. "That's a shitty thing to say, DiNozzo."
"Yeah well, I guess we're both disappointed in each other." Tony spat, as he rose from the bed and made his way to the door, only faltering for a moment before he pulled the door closed behind him.
Gibbs woke early as ever. He didn't remember when he'd finally succumbed to sleep but apparently his fatigue had won over the frustration that was still gnawing at him. His senses sharpened as the sleepiness drifted off and he heard voices coming from the kitchen downstairs. Was Tony already up? Usually the man didn't come out of bed 'til noon if he could help it.
"Tony!" Gibbs picked up the frustration in his father's voice as he apparently called Tony for something. He tried to listen but couldn't pick up what they were saying. He might as well get up. A few minutes later he came downstairs, dressed and craving coffee more than ever.
Apparently Jack had anticipated that and a moment later, a steaming cup was pressed into his hands. He let out a sigh of pleasure after the first gulp and raised an eyebrow at Jack's smirk.
"I don't know how your esophagus doesn't just melt away, son." He shook his head as he walked away to start a fresh pot, already knowing that only one cup wouldn't do the trick. Only then, Gibbs realized that Tony wasn't there.
Jack briefly glanced over his shoulder and made a sound of disapproval. "He packed his bag, Leroy."
Gibbs was just about to ask if he'd already left, when the door opened and Tony came into the house, grabbed his coat and was about to say something to Jack when he noticed the younger Gibbs standing there too. After a brief look of acknowledgement, he looked away again and said goodbye to Jack, giving him a warm hug that left Gibbs with a lump in his throat. Tony gave him a curt nod before he walked out again and a few minutes later, both men heard the engine of a car start and then Tony drove off.
Gibbs' hand faltered as his cell phone chirped to life. He threw down the sander and walked over to the workbench. If it was dispatch, he'd probably strangle Leon. The name on the screen made him pause before he answered.
"Let me guess. You're alone in the basement, doing nothing to celebrate Christmas."
A sigh. "Tony- "
"Please, just come over so I can apologize. And so I don't have to feel bad about ordering take-out for one on Christmas…"
Gibbs snorted at that and he knew he couldn't say no.
A loud knock caused Tony to look up from his couch.
"It's open!" he called out, and waited for Gibbs to appear in his living room. What he didn't expect though, was Gibbs' dress shirt and jeans that actually fit the older man's body. He stared a few moments longer than necessary before Gibbs cleared his throat and their eyes met. Gibbs glanced at the kitchen with a frown and sniffed.
"Lasagna will be ready in about twenty minutes", Tony answered Gibbs' unasked question.
"Thought we were doing take-out?"
"Yeah, well… I thought you might be scared off if you knew that I was cooking." Tony was only half joking and they both knew it by his nervous chuckle but neither man addressed it.
Gibbs glanced around the room until he finally shrugged out of his coat and sat down on the other end of the couch, folding his coat over the armrest.
After a few minutes of uncomfortable silence, Tony finally spoke up.
"Look, Gibbs. I really am sorry. I should never have said that you didn't want me to be happy because you weren't."
Gibbs shrugged and shook his head, banning the words that so desperately wanted to come out. Tony sensed his struggle and he came to sit closer, as if that'd encourage the older man to face whatever he was feeling. They both hated talking about these things, but sometimes you just h ad to, and this was one of those times.
"I was happy." Gibbs uttered the words as if that was clear as day to anyone who took so much as a glance at him.
"You were, more than twenty years ago." Tony braced for the reaction he'd probably get. To his surprise, Gibbs smiled faintly and shook his head.
"I was happy until a few months ago."
"What happened?" Tony whispered. Surely, this wasn't about him? His heart fluttered and he ignored it with whatever strength he had left.
"Stillwater happened. It wasn't the thought of you with a girlfriend that bothered me…" Gibbs forced himself to continue. "I just wanted you to be a hundred percent at work and I thought you were busy with all sorts of other things."
Tony's heart beat so loudly that he could practically hear the blood rushing through his veins.
"Bullshit." His voice was barely a whisper and they stared at each other for what felt like an eternity, both men shocked by Tony's guts.
They didn't know which one moved first but then suddenly Tony's hand shot out and grabbed Gibbs by the neck, crushing their lips together in a hungry kiss. Gibbs let out a surprised moan and he cupped Tony's face, trying to bring them closer together. The kiss quickly deepened as Jethro licked Tony's bottom lip and their tongues met in a heated struggle. Tony let himself fall against the couch and he tugged Gibbs down on top of him, linking one muscled leg behind his back to keep the older man firmly in place.
The older man arched his hips and rubbed their cocks together, closing his eyes briefly when the need for Tony threatened to envelop him completely. Tony's fingers ran through his silver strands and he practically mewled at the sweet touch. He laid one arm under Tony's neck and forced them closer together, kissing the corner of Tony's mouth, his jaw line, the pulse point under his ear until he buried his head in the crook of the Italian's neck and breathed in the unique scent of the younger man.
Gibbs' weight grounded Tony more than he'd ever felt with anyone. He stroked Gibbs' nape and the older man tightened his grip reflexively. Tony cupped his face and lifted his head just enough so they could see each other.
"I'm not going anywhere." Tony said the words slowly, knowing that they could both be as stubborn as a mule but he refused to lose whatever thing they had just now acknowledged between them.
Jethro didn't speak for a while, his eyes completely unguarded as he looked down at Tony. The Italian couldn't remember a time where it had been so easy to read the other man's emotions as it was now.
Jethro answered him with a slow kiss, entirely different than the first one had been. Where the first one had carried an all-consuming passion, this one carried a promise for more.
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